Publications

"The Boy Who Would Be King: Can Kim III Last?" by Professor Lee

The National Bureau of Asian Research

The sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on December 17 has the makings of a Shakespearean tragedy. In Julius Caesar, Cassius, one of the conspirators in the assassination of the man once known as “dictator in perpetuity,” declares upon Caesar’s fall, “Why, he that cuts off twenty years of his life/ Cuts off so many years of fearing death.” That the North Korean “Caesar” succumbed to his own mortality long before he was able to fully groom his son and heir, Jong-un, may be an omen for the boy who would be king: a premature encounter—by twenty years or more—with death and, as a result, a merciful respite from prolonged paranoia about mutiny.